WHA71: KEI intervention on Global strategy and plan of action on public health, innovation and intellectual property

At the 71st World Health Assembly, KEI will deliver the following intervention regarding the Global Strategy and Plan of Action on Public Health, Innovation, and Intellectual Property:

11.6 Global strategy and plan of action on public health, innovation and intellectual property
Documents A71/13 and EB142/2018/REC/1, decision EB142(4)

WHO’s work program on public health, innovation, and intellectual property includes notable objectives, but also omissions.

We are encouraged to see support for the expansion the portfolio of the Medicines Patent Pool to include other diseases including cancer, an area where treatment disparities are stark and unacceptable.

The WHO continues to recognize that work is needed to implement, progressively, the delinkage of R&D incentives from the price of goods and services, and indeed, without progress on this front, universal access will never be achieved. Given disparities in incomes between and within countries, universal access is only feasible if prices are allowed to fall to generic levels, and if new sets of incentives to reward successful R&D efforts are not linked to prices. Initial steps in this direction involve mere feasibility studies.

It was good to see modest objectives on transparency, but we were appalled that one country opposed transparency of R&D costs, even though R&D costs are the one and only excuse for access-limiting high prices. More to the point, if you never have transparency and reliable data on R&D costs by specific products, you are destined to be subject to endless manipulation by big drug company misinformation campaigns, leaving poor people defenseless to bogus arguments to justify unjustifiable prices and inequalities. We need real, rather than fake, data on R&D costs.

Governments do need to be reminded that it’s time to end provisions in trade agreements that make it harder to obtain access for affordable products and new services such as CAR T. We are very concerned that one country recently announced a policy that is explicitly on the objective of raising drug prices around the world. This is tragic failure of analysis and morality, and that country needs to revise its thinking.